Copper in the Arts

January 2008

Cast Images: American Bronze Sculpture Highlights New York Works

Dancer and Gazelle Dancer and Gazelles, 1916. Paul Manship, 1885-1966. The Metropolitan Museum of Art, Francis Lathrop Fund, 1959.

Photograph by Jerry L. Thompson.
Photograph ©1989 The Metropolitan Museum of Art.

The Metropolitan Museum of Art presents a rare look at American bronze sculpture with Cast Images: American Bronze Sculpture , on view in the Museum's West Gallery through February 24.

Curated by Thayer Tolles, associate curator in the Metropolitan's Department of American Paintings and Sculpture, the exhibition features 50 small-scale bronze sculptures from the Metropolitan's permanent collection. Artists represented in the exhibition, many of whom worked in New York, include Augustus Saint-Gaudens, Frederic Remington, Daniel Chester French, Bessie Potter Vonnoh and Paul Manship.

"The Metropolitan Museum of Art is delighted to continue its longstanding association with the New York State Museum through the presentation of the Cast Images exhibition," said Emily Kernan Rafferty, president of the Metropolitan Museum. "We are pleased to have this opportunity to share highlights from our comprehensive collection of American bronze sculptures with residents of upstate New York."

The centuries-old tradition of casting bronze into sculptural form reached the United States by 1850, reaching its apex in the early decades of the 20th century. Small bronze statuettes, busts, and medallions enjoyed great popularity as fine collectible objects for domestic decoration. Bronze was heralded as a democratic, readily accessible American medium because bronze sculptures were easily produced in the United States, in contrast to marble sculptures that were primarily carved in Europe. A short video explaining the bronze-casting process is featured in the exhibition installation.

Cast Images traces the historical development of the small American bronze from aesthetic and thematic standpoints. The exhibition is centered on four distinct themes: American life, history and heroes, myth and allegory and the American West. Included are such familiar sculptures as The Broncho Buster by Remington, a native of Canton, New York, and Victory, a gilded allegorical figure by Saint-Gaudens, drawn from his Sherman Monument in New York City.

Artists responded to a call for subjects that were rendered with realistic detail and addressed aspects of the American experience. John Quincy Adams Ward was inspired by Abraham Lincoln's Emancipation Proclamation of September 1862 to model his Freedman, a sensitive representation of a former slave released from the shackles of servitude. Likewise, Abastenia St. Leger Eberle drew her inspiration for Girl Skating from Lower East Side working-class immigrants. The joyful girl in the sculpture experiences the popular pastime of roller skating on just one skate.

A free lecture by exhibition curator Thayer Tolles about American bronze sculpture and Cast Images will be held on Saturday, February 2 at 2 p.m. No registration is necessary.

The exhibition is the 18th installment of the Bank of America Great Art Exhibition and Education Program, which brings art from New York State's leading art museums to the State Museum. This is also the fifth exhibition in the Great Art Series drawn from The Metropolitan Museum of Art's collections-a collaboration that began in the early 1990s.

Resources:

The Metropolitan Museum of Art, 1000 Fifth Ave., New York, NY, (212) 535-7710

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